CITY of North Vancouver council is hoping a strongly worded but diplomatic letter will help persuade Port Metro Vancouver to consider other options before allowing Richardson International to build a massive expansion to its grain silos.
Council is writing the letter in response to the surprise revelation in September that Richardson is hoping to get PMV approval for a 55-metre silo on the east side of its terminal in the coming months.
An incensed crowd of neighbours from the 500-block of East First and Second streets gathered in council chambers Monday night to voice anger over the loss of property values and quality of life that will come if the project goes ahead bringing increased noise, pollution, and dust and the loss of inlet views.
"I thought the Low Level Road was a big battle," said John Grant, a Second Street resident. "This is right on my doorstep. . . . It's our livelihoods because we are middle and lower-middle class people getting the biggest assets we own potentially kicked across a road."
The city's letter calls on PMV to pursue options that will have less impact on the neighbours, do more consultation and submit to the city's building permit process for the expansion.
As PMV lands are under federal jurisdiction, the city has no say in what gets built on the property but PMV does consult with the city on major projects. Richardson is planning to build a $120-million concrete silo, which will allow it to almost double its export capacity in response to the rising price of grain in the international market. Richardson estimates having the increased capacity will mean another 50 jobs added to its staff of 100.
But nearby property values will drop by 30 to 55 per cent if the project goes ahead, according to neighbour Michael Binkley, who told council he had consulted with several Realtors.
Michael's wife Michelle asked every member of council if they were aware of the project, whether they would still have voted in favour of the Low Level Road expansion and whether they would support seeking a legal injunction against PMV until council could reverse its decision.
Every member of council denied having heard about Richardson's plans until recent weeks but none would commit to seeking an injunction without getting a legal opinion from city lawyers.
Among the most aggravating factors for council and community members: that PMV must have been aware of Richardson's plans during the Low Level Road consultation process, meaning all the original studies on noise and pollution were of little value.
Council's approval of the Low Level Road project was done with incomplete information, Michelle argued, and should be tossed.
"Council's vote for the Low Level Road greenlight should be considered null and void due to non-disclosure of integral information by PMV," she said.
According to a staff report, Richardson would go ahead with its expansion regardless of whether the city approved the Low Level Road project, but the Binkleys urged council to "call their bluff."
Couns. Pam Bookham and Rod Clark, who both voted against the Low Level Road project in June, were the first to speak up at Monday's meeting.
"I have to say that I felt absolutely appalled when this information came to light. I share your view that it is not conceivable that the plan was not in the works at the time we were having the discussion," said Bookham, who added she would support "whatever means" might bring a solution to residents' concerns.
For Clark, it was a lesson in trusting PMV. "I fought very hard against the Low Level Road because I did not believe council had all the facts - that we are being asked to trust (PMV). Three months later we now know we cannot trust them. This was obviously very much in the works," he said.
Coun. Craig Keating, who was one of the Low Level Road's stronger proponents, said he supported seeing industrial lands used for industrial purposes, but he was "dumbfounded" by Richardson's response to the matter.
Instead of charging ahead with its plans, Keating said Richardson should consider the huge profits they stand to make from an expansion and consider building the silo on the south side of existing ones where it will not impact views and noise will be mitigated. "There are options there but I think what they chose to do is the cheapest option that works best for them and to heck with the process," he said.
© Copyright 2013